Process of reform

Consultation processes

Advisory Committee

1.54 It is standard operating procedure for the ALRC to establish an expert Advisory Committee to assist with the development of its inquiries.[62] In this Inquiry, the Advisory Committee includes judges, senior officers of Australian Government agencies, academics and senior lawyers.

1.55 The Advisory Committee met for the first time on 19 August 2010, and will meet at least once more during the course of the Inquiry to provide advice and assistance to the ALRC. The Advisory Committee has particular value in helping the ALRC to identify the key issues, as well as in providing quality assurance in the research and consultation effort. The Advisory Committee will also assist with the development of reform proposals as the Inquiry progresses. However, the ultimate responsibility for the Report and recommendations remains with the Commissioners of the ALRC.

Community consultation and participation

1.56 Under the terms of its constituting Act, the ALRC ‘may inform itself in any way it thinks fit’ for the purposes of reviewing or considering anything that is the subject of an inquiry.[63] One of the most important features of ALRC inquiries is the commitment to widespread community consultation—a hallmark of best practice law reform.[64]

1.57 The nature and extent of this engagement is normally determined by the subject matter of the reference. Areas that are seen to be narrow and technical tend to be of interest mainly to experts. Some ALRC inquiries—such as those relating to the protection of human genetic information, privacy and family violence—involve a significant level of interest and involvement from the general public and the media.

1.58 To date, consultations for this Inquiry have been held with a number of government agencies, academics, judges and members of the legal profession. The ALRC is based in Sydney but, in recognition of the national character of the Commission, consultations are conducted around Australia during inquiries, dependent on the nature of the matter under consideration and budget. Any individual or organisation with an interest in meeting with the Inquiry in relation to matters raised in this Consultation Paper is encouraged to contact the ALRC. A list of consultations is included as Appendix 1.

1.59 There are several ways in which those with an interest in this Inquiry may follow its progress and participate. Individuals and organisations may express an interest in the Inquiry by contacting the ALRC by phone or email, or they can subscribe to the Inquiry e-newsletter via the website <www.alrc.gov.au>. Free download of consultation documents is available via the website, and those who wish to receive a free CD-ROM of the consultation documents may request them via an online web form, or by phone.

1.60 In this Inquiry the ALRC is producing a regular e-newsletter to keep stakeholders informed about progress on a regular basis, with a calendar of stakeholder consultations or other key events in the upcoming month, as well as a summary of consultations and other work in the past month, and links to relevant media releases, publications and other materials, such as the Access to Justice Taskforce’s report. Each e-newsletter also links to the Inquiry blog, noted below. Any individual or organisation with an interest in the inquiry is encouraged to subscribe (via the ALRC website) to receive the e-newsletter, which is then delivered directly to their inbox.

1.61 For the duration of this Inquiry the ALRC is hosting a blog at http://talk.alrc.gov.au/. The blog offers interested stakeholders insight into particular issues the ALRC is considering as it conducts its review, and enables public discussion of those issues. The invitation to comment on blog posts is open to all. Individuals and organisations may also make written submissions to the Inquiry.

1.62 Finally, the ALRC maintains an active program of direct consultation with stakeholders and other interested parties, as well as including regular briefings to key staff in the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department.

Written submissions

1.63 With the release of this Consultation Paper, the ALRC invites individuals and organisations to make submissions in response to the specific questions and proposals, or to any of the background material and analysis provided, to help advance the reform process in this Inquiry.

1.64 There is no specified format for submissions and they may be marked confidential if preferred. The ALRC prefers electronic communications and submissions, and strongly encourages stakeholders to make use of the online submission form available on the ALRC website. However, the ALRC will gratefully accept anything from handwritten notes to detailed commentary and scholarly analyses on relevant laws and practices. Even simple dot-points are welcome. Submissions will be published on the ALRC website, unless they are marked confidential.[65]

1.65 The ALRC appreciates that tight deadlines for making submissions places considerable pressure upon those who wish to participate in ALRC inquiries. Given the deadline for delivering the final report to the Attorney-General at the end of March 2011, and the need to consider fully the submissions received in response to this Consultation Paper, all submissions must be submitted on time—by Wednesday 19 January 2011.

1.66 It is the invaluable work of participants that enriches the whole consultative process of the Commission’s inquiries. The quality of the outcomes is assisted greatly by the understanding of contributors in needing to meet the deadline imposed by the reporting process itself. This Inquiry is no exception.

In order to ensure consideration for use in the final report, submissions addressing the questions and proposals in this Consultation Paper must reach the ALRC by Wednesday 19 January 2011.

The ALRC encourages stakeholders to use the online submission form available at www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/discovery.

Submissions not marked confidential will be published on the ALRC website.

[62] A list of Advisory Committee members can be found in the List of Participants at the front of this Consultation Paper.

[63]Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth) s 38.

[64] B Opeskin, ‘Measuring Success’ in B Opeskin and D Weisbrot (eds), The Promise of Law Reform (2005) 202.

[65] Submissions provided only in hard copy might not be published on the website.